Next time you get a craving for a perfectly crispy duck, try making your own at home.

This special-occasion meal is surprisingly easy once you get the technique down. The reason why it's not your typical weeknight dinner is because duck is pretty expensive and even with this streamlined recipe, it takes about half a day to make. The traditional method involves hours of marinating and steaming, but this simpler method starts with a long, slow simmer.

Chinese Crispy Duck Recipe:

Ingredients (makes 4 servings):

  • 1 whole duck, innards removed
  • 10-14 cups water
  • 4 T. Chinese five spice
  • 1 cup soy sauce
  • 1 cup oyster sauce
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • Salt, garlic powder to taste
  • Oil for frying


Set the duck in a large stockpot, leaning it against one side if it won't lay flat. Pour in enough water to cover it at least 3/4 of the way up. Add most of the Chinese five-spice (reserve about a teaspoon), soy sauce, and oyster sauce. Bring to a boil on medium, then reduce the heat to low. Simmer for 2 hours, covered.

Carefully remove the duck from the pot and let it drain and rest on a cookie sheet for at least an hour to fully cool. Here comes the challenging part: deboning it. With a pair of kitchen scissors, cut along the top of the duck, separating the two halves of the breast. Spread it open and cut along the bottom of the duck, along one side of the spine. The bones should be soft enough that the scissors will get the job done. 

The best tools to use are your fingers and a sharp paring knife. Start by removing the rib bones, then cut along the back to remove the spine. At the top, you'll hit the collar bone/wishbone that you'll need to remove by carefully cutting with the tip of your knife. The wings will generally fall off of a duck when you cook it for so long, so go ahead and remove whatever is there, including the bone of the "drumette." At this point, I cut the half into two quarters, imagining the breast section and the leg quarter. Set the breast aside, then carefully remove the thigh bone. Leave the drumstick intact for presentation.

Repeat with the other half of the duck. You should end up with four pieces, one for each guest. While not quite the same, click here to see how this is done with a sturdier roast duck.

Tear off four large pieces of plastic wrap. Set each piece of duck on the plastic, season both sides with the salt, garlic powder, and a dash of the Chinese five-spice. Sprinkle on the flour to thoroughly coat the duck and don't worry if it doesn't all stick to the surface. Freeze for at least 20 minutes.

When you're ready to eat, heat your oil in a frying pan on medium for about 3 minutes. Shake the excess flour off each piece and lay them in the pan, being careful not to crowd them. Fry the duck for 5 minutes on each side, then 2 minutes on the first side again, for a total of 12 minutes of cooking time. Drain on paper towels before slicing and serving on rice.

crispy duck, vegetables

Photo by Sarina Petrocelly


  • This recipe has several steps, but it's not difficult. Because it is so time-intensive, you may want to boil 2 or more ducks at one time. If you can find duck leg quarters, even better! The floured pieces can stay in the freezer as long as you want before you cook them. There's no need to do all of the prep on the same day.
  • At a restaurant, you would probably get half of a duck served with stir-fried vegetables and hoisin sauce on the side. Simple cucumber, tomato, and onion slices would complement the rich flavor of the duck too.
  • Curry sauce or mixed vegetables with Thai basil and chilis also go very well with this dish.

Do you have a favorite way of cooking duck? Share it with us in the comments!